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Pilgrim Posse (Short Story No. 3)
These short stories will be part of the sequel to my novel The Lady Who Loved Bones. Any suggestions for improvement or for future stories are welcome.
Follow the camel toe
The posse from Virginia City led by Sheriff Hiram Brown continued to follow the gang of bank robbers. The posse consisted of Brown, his two regular deputies, Pinkerton agent Helen James, and eight rather nondescript men from the town. One woman had been included to do the cooking and perform other services.
In fact, the other eight men were all Chinese miners originally from the Kuangtung Provence of China, which includes Hong Kong. They all lived at the lower end of Wallace Street in Virginia City, worked for Chung Wah Kung Saw, and belonged to the Chinese Masonic Lodge. The leader of the group, Ku-Long, had been paid by Hiram Brown to persuade the others to join the posse. The sheriff paid him in chandu, opium specially processed for vaporizing. Sheriff Brown loaned the Chinese temporary deputies rifles, new Winchester 1866 models, but none of them had much experience with weapons or working for the law.
“Hell, these yellow boys got Yellow Boys,” the sheriff drawled. “Can’t hardly miss.” The new Winchesters were referred to as Yellow Boys because of the yellow appearance due to the receiver made of a bronze/brass alloy called gunmetal. The rifle was an upgrade over the Henry rifle and had a 15-round magazine.
Although the citizens of Virginia City declined to join the posse, the storekeepers and the city fathers did furnish food and other supplies. Sam Jensen, owner of the finest brothel in town, a brothel that featured ceiling-to-floor mirrors, crystal chandeliers, oriental rugs, marble tables, and grand pianos, furnished one of his working girls. The young Chinese lady was helpful to Ku-Long in persuading the other Chinese to join the posse.
Both regular deputies had rather shady pasts. Ned Helm was the nephew of the late Boone Helm, the Kentucky Cannibal. Like uncle, like nephew. Ned occasionally bragged, when stoned or drunk, of having consumed human flesh, as had his uncle. He was rather proud that his uncle had been hanged. Ned brought up at every opportunity Boone Helm’s last words, which he spoke to the just hanged and then dead Three-Fingered Jack Gallagher: “I’ll be in hell with you in a minute!” The other deputy, Russ Lane, had ridden with Quantrill’s raiders. He bragged about the numerous women he had been intimate with without their consent. His favorite story was about the preacher’s daughter near Deadwood that he violate anally. When the preacher complained and threatened to tell the sheriff, Lane did the same thing to the preacher’s wife.
Early in the afternoon of the second day of the manhunt, the posse came across a lone camel lying in a field by the road.
“That’s Joe!” Helen exclaimed. She dismounted from her horse, approached the camel, and said, “I’m going to ride him. May Ling can ride my horse instead of that cranky old mule.”
Helen approached the beast with caution and sidled up to it sideways. Sheriff Brown held the reins while Helen attempted to get on. She swung her leg over the back and placed herself in the middle of the camel saddle. There was one stirrup to assist in getting on and off. She mounted the brute and held on for dear life.
“Get up you stupid beast!” the sheriff yelled.
Smoking and joking
“You better watch it!” Helen warned. “A camel can kick in all four directions. And it can take a big chunk out of you with those teeth.”
The camel got up from its back legs first, so Helen leaned back in the saddle as the camel started to stand. She leaned forward as Joe raised his front legs. Once the animal was up, Helen adjusted herself so she was sitting in the middle of the saddle, and she crossed her legs in front of herself, which distributed her weight more toward her rear and tailbone, making for a more comfortable ride. But not that comfortable. The camel, as they all did, walked with one of its front legs and the back leg of the opposite side at the same time, making for a jerking gait and front to back and side to side motion. Helen soon complained her butt was hurtin’. Sheriff Brown responded that he was planning on giving her butt a real hurtin’ in the immediate future.
Sheriff Brown grumbled, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
“I’m not ashamed!” Helen blurted. “I’m woman!”
“You don’t have the right equipment, honey,” Brown retorted, “but you sure kin drain a hose.”
The posse travelled until almost sunset and then made camp for the night. It wasn’t long before Ku-Long brought out the smoking paraphernalia from his opium den in Virginia City. He had showed great interest in the camel, asked many questions, and became infatuated with Helen. He produced an opium pipe that used an oil lamp as a heating source to vaporize the opium. He instructed Helen to lie down as that was the only comfortable way to hold the opium pipe over the lamp and monitor the drug. Helen declined participating but the others eagerly joined in, all apparently having had previous experience with respect to smoking opium. After smoking, the two deputies amused
themselves with the Chinese girl, and she was not happy about it. They sodomized her in front of the other Chinese.
The group later sat around the fire eating the antelope that Russ Lane had shot. May Ling had made a delicious stew with the meat and potatoes and carrots. Helen treated Joe to several carrots and apples she had brought. The camel and the Pinkerton agent had immediately bonded.
Helen asked, “I wonder what happened to Turk Smith, the guy who was riding Joe back in Virginia City when the bank was robbed.”
“Probably dead,” Sheriff Brown suggested.
“Why do you say that?” Helen snapped.
“You’re the detective,” the sheriff responded sarcastically, “but there was blood on the camel but no wound. The blood belonged to somebody.”
# # #
The next morning the answer to what happened to Turk Smith became apparent. Smith’s naked body was found hanging upside down from a tree. His genitals had been cut off and stuck in his mouth.
“This looks like the work of Cheyenne Dog Soldiers,” Sheriff Hiram Brown observed.
“Why didn’t they scalp him?” Helen asked.
“He’s mostly bald,” the sheriff responded. “Not much to gain from what would have taken considerable effort.”
Helen cut him down and searched the body. He had no money or gold on him, but he did have some sort of map. She suggested they to give him a Christian burial, which was met with unanimous dissent.
Sheriff Brown said, “No time to bury him. The wolves and coyotes got to eat too. We better get out back on the trail of the bank robbers. And I’m a little concerned about running into the Cheyenne.”
# # #
Mayhem and murder
The posse rode without incident to almost nightfall. They came across a large camp and fire, and heard activity and men talking. A temporary rope corral contained many horses. Guards stopped the leaders of the posse before they got too close to the camp.
Introductions were made. It turned out that this was a second posse, led by Neil Howie, U. S. Marshall Montana Territory and Brigadier General in command of the Montana Militia.
Sheriff Brown filled in Neil Howie on what had transpired since the bank robbery, including the death of Turk Smith.
“We spotted considerable sign of the Cheyenne,” Howie noted. “Not to mention that the Dog Soldiers raided the Anderson farm and murdered and mutilated the family except for an eighteen-year-old girl. They took her. The other daughter, around twelve, was raped in front of the mother and then both of them had their heads bashed in with clubs.”
Howie sent out his hunters to get some game for dinner and the Virginia City posse made camp for the night alongside Howie’s men. Helen asked the marshal/general many questions about his career. He gave a detailed account of the time he singlehandedly captured the outlaw “Dutch John” Wagner.
“I see you got some of them new Winchesters,” Howie said.
“Yup,” Hiram Brown responded, and made the joke about the Yellow Boys again.
“Sheriff Brown here is a bigot,” Helen proclaimed.
“I ain’t no bigot!” the sheriff protested. “I like that Chinese whore just fine. She ain’t got what you got, Little Miss Pinkerton, but she gets the job done.”
“What’s your plan?” Howie asked Sheriff Brown.
“Catch these damn bank robbers,” the sheriff snarled. “And string them up.”
“Easier said than done,” Helen interjected. “We haven’t gained much ground on them so far.”
“But they are easy to follow,” Brown added. “It’s the camel toes. We’ll prolly have to eat that camel you been riding. Camel tastes like beef, but a little more fat like mutton. Dark meat, and smooth, like the Chinese girl.”
“You touch that camel and I’ll blow your balls off,” Helen threatened.
With that, she pulled the map out that she had taken from Turk Smith’s body and showed it to Marshal Howie. “Look familiar?” she asked.
“Yup,” he responded. “Looks like Helena.”
“Yes, it does,’ Helen agreed. She pointed to a building on the map. “That’s the corner of Main and Wall streets. The building is the First National Bank of Helena that opened last year. There’s a name written by the bank, T. H. Kleinschmidt. Do you recognize that name, marshal?”
“Yup. He’s the head cashier. Measures all the gold dust. He’s the expert. The bank also deals in coin and government vouchers, but mostly it’s the gold dust.
“Damn!” the sheriff exclaimed, “do you think maybe they are going to rob another bank?”
# # #
Sheriff Brown and his posse continued on the trail of the bank robbers. Marshall Howie and his posse headed for Helena in case the bank there was the outlaw gang’s next target.
The next morning the posse discovered Russ Lane with his throat cut. Sheriff Brown said that a Christian burial would be required for his deputy, but they would take his body back to Virginia City and do it there.
“Russ was a good Christian boy, you know,” Sheriff Brown offered.
“I’m sure,” Helen replied, raising an eyebrow. “Who do you suppose did this thing?”
“Those Cheyenne, of course,” the sheriff answered belligerently.
“Then why didn’t they cut off his balls?” Helen inquired.
“They would be doing you a favor if they cut off your balls!” the sheriff snarled.